Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Robertson Ranch on the Smith River

Below are pictures of Great Grandfather O.A. Robertson's ranch on the Smith.  According to my Dad O.D. Robertson and Byrd Robertson found this spot when they were hunting.  They were not of age, so they had their father file a homestead on the place.  In O.A. Robertson's will, he left all the household goods, clothing, jewelry and livestock to his 2nd wife Jennie.  She received a life estate on the Smith River Ranch, but it reverted to his sons when she died.

The Ranch is not part of a state park but a historical marker tells visitors that it is the Robertson Homestead.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


After 37 years of marriage, I am finally getting a handle on my husband’s Guy-Speak.  Here are some examples

Me:  Did you like dinner?
Him:  It was alright.
Translation:  It was not my favorite dinner, probably because it was healthy and had no meat.  I am not  complaining because I don’t want to cook.

Him:  I am doing a fun fix-it project.
Translation:  I have found a project that involves an engine. It is challenging, probably expensive, my friends can help with it, and when it is done I will have something I like to drive around.

Me:  I am so mad about what Josephine Doe said about Warblesnorts!
Him: Silence....
Translation:   I am not interested in this topic.  Josephine Doe can say anything she wants about Warblesnorts, and I am good with it.

Him:  I am going to mow the lawn.
Translation:  Would you help me mow the lawn by moving the hoses and fences around the trees, and doing the easy part with the other mower?

Him:  That four-wheeler ride was a blast!.
Translation:  That four-wheeler ride was challenging and, more important, dangerous.  I got to see cool old mines, try to bust through snow drifts, and spend time with my friends.

A person in a jeep asks us the following while we are four-wheeling:  Did you just come up that road?  How was it?
Him:  It was a little rough.
Translation:  The road has the same incline as the Empire State Building and is packed with boulders the size of a large dog.  No one in their right mind would drive on this road if they didn’t have to.

 It takes a while to get the hang of Guy-Speak, but I am proof that it can be done.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Leaving Pompey's Pillar

After my Dad's brother Robert Theodore died and my Dad and his sister Win nearly died,  Maude and Dunc Robertson decide to give up their dairy farm at Pompey's Pillar.  Dad always told me, that the water was bad in Pompey's Pillar, and they thought that it was the cause of the sick children.

The first child to become seriously ill was  Robert Theodore "Teddy." He died on November 17, 1913. The Great Falls Tribune reported:

Robertson Baby Dead

On Monday morning at 10:30, Robert Theodore, the fourteen-months-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Oscar D. Robertson of Pompey's Pillar, died of acute inflammation of the bowels.  The little child has been a sufferer for a long time.  The remains were taken to Great Falls the first of the week and internment was made in the family burial plot.  

The members of the family and Miss Mittie Brodock, Mrs. Robertson's sister went to Great Falls to see the remains of the little fellow put in its final resting place.

Robert Theodore Robertson
Bill for Teddy's Headstone

My Aunt Winifred and my father became desperately ill with the same symptoms Teddy had and nearly died.  Dad said his hair at birth was red, but it all fell out during this illness.  When his hair grew back in, it was dark brown.  The illness of both children had to have occurred in 1917 or after since my Dad's birth was March 9, 1916, and he said he could talk enough to say, "Milk, Momma!" when he was recovering.

After losing a baby and nearly losing two others, Grandpa and Grandma packed up. They auctioned off their farm and headed to West Fork to take up flax farming.  The town is now called Westby, located in the northeast corner state.

An old red journal of Grandpa's indicates some business with the railroad, whether the car number applies to supplies coming early in the Pompey's Pillar venture or moving, I don't know. A red journal indicates the the family made the move to West Fork by rail car. Possibly, Dunc and John went ahead to build a house and make things ready for the rest of the family. Journal entry, "My car is 41350."  Uncle John accompanied Grandpa.  Journal entry,  "Left Wolf Point at 5 oclock Nov 15, 1917 for Great Falls John and Dunc. Laid Over in Glasgow the 17    went from Glasgow to haver at 4 oclock   are at Coberg in the Milk River Valley."

Journal entry, "Pompey's Pillar Mont Apr 15 1917    a regular Blizzard is Raging today"

Later journal entry, "Bound for Scobey.  Left Pompey's Pillar with my carload of Household goods 5 horses and wagon on April 17th at 3.30 pm 1917

April 18 left Billings at 1 oclock on Gt Northern"

Journal entry, "Rate from Pompey's Pillar to Billings on ....car, Billings 12 to Plentywood 32, Plentywood to Scobey 12.  Robinson at Lead office of Gt Northern in Billings gave me the rate  Take no other"

Journal entry, "April 19 kept me in Billings from 7 oclock on the 17 until 3 oclock the 18th thence to Gt Falls  Laid over 6 oclock on the 19th until 4:30 P.M. the 19th  Just arrived in Havre 4.30 A.M. of 20th        arrive at Glasgow 8.30 P.M. Laid over untill 12:30 P.M.  Then Left for Bainville  arrived at 8.30 am 21 Apr     Left Bainville 1.30 P.M. Apr 21 bound for Plenty Wood     Apr 21 6 P.M. arrived at Plenty wood.  Left Plenty wood Sunday 22 at 3 pm   Bound for Scobey    Arrived at Scobey Apr 22 9.30 P M at night  Apr 23 at Scobey   snowing like blazes for two days 23rd and 24      Apr 26 John"+

The flax venture was a bust.  The family lost every penny they had.  My Grandmother delivered twins, a boy and a girl in Fort Benton, where her sister Mabel lived, on Oct 10, 1917.

Maude holding Geneva, Gene, Sid in the background and Winifred

In the middle of all this upheaval, O, Dunc , was drafted to serve in WWI Nov 4 1918, eleven days before his 46th birthday.  He did not see combat but served in the Washington shipyards.

So the next time I think I'm having a rough day or a rough year or a rough 5 years, it might be time to ruminate on these events in my Grandparents' and parents' lives and put things in perspective.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Learning More About Pompey's Pillar

View from the Pompey's Pillar Farm, taken by the rich relatives from Chicago
The years in Pompey’s Pillar must have loomed large in my grandparents’ life.  They saved more paperwork from this time than from any other time in their life combined.  There are receipts for operation and maintenance fees, character references, various correspondence with the bureau of reclamation , tax notices, deeds, maps, stock certificates,  and water rights, to name a few.
Character Reference

Farming during the first year: 1909

Before the Pompey’s Pillar venture, O. Duncan Robertson and Maude Brodock Robertson must have saved up to provide themselves with a healthy stake to get started.  No greenhorn, Grandpa did not calculate to rely solely on farming the alkaline western soil. He had a dairy farm in mind.  Their dairy stock was of the finest.  Grandpa kept excellent records of his improvements and his stocks’ pedigrees and milk production.  Mr. Berg, whoever he may be, and Warrent bred their cow to Grandpa's registerd Holstein bull.

Certificate of Registry for bull
Grandpa had names for his cows.  It appears that many were named after friends of family:  Nettie, Mittie, Beauty, Rose, Edith, Alberta, and May.  This is more evidence of our changing culture. If anyone named a cow after me, I would assume the person was trying to pick a fight.

I would have never dreamed that the Huntley Project, Ballantine, Pompey's Pillar area created a telephone company.  But here is the stock certificate that proves it.  Evidently, Grandpa had stock in the company and had the contract to string some of the lines.

To me it looks like the Pompey’s Pillar neighbors were a tight knit group,  Several papers refer to a Yeoman’s Association which Maude, Dunc and several neighbors joined.   There is even a certificate that looks remarkably like a health insurance policy.  In this valuable paper, my Grandmother lists the causes of death from siblings to grandparents.

Dairy Licene for the Robertson's Yellowstone stock farm.

Bill for stringing telephone wire on the Yellowstone Stock Farm Letterhead

Building Huntley Project
I’ m inclined to believe Wikipedia when it states that much of Huntley Project was poorly designed and cheaply built.  It wasn’t long before repairs and replacements were needed. Looking at some of the receipts, the maintenance fees seem to occur often and fees seem exorbitant for this time period.  Call me naive, but $172.90 for irrigation maintenance fees for a farm where the entire mortgage was a $1000.00 seems outrageous.   Like the rest of the west, the soil tended to be alkali and crops didn’t grow as well as the farmers would have liked. Interestingly, Wikipedia states that in 1913 some of land became waterlogged. 

 Looking through these documents made me realize at little more about the character of those I descended from.  They were very literate, paid their debts, and were good business people.  They valued quality and knew how to plan to achieve their goals.  Grandma and Grandpa, you were A-1.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Eleven Rules of Fashion

  • Blue jeans go with any color.
  • Fur went out after the ice age. Why would you even WANT to wear fur when you could buy a machine washable, water resistant, warm ski jacket at a fraction of the cost? 
  • Ski jackets go with any outfit from the formal to the casual. 
  • If it’s uncomfortable, it is not fashionable.
  • High heels have never been and will never be in style. Ever.
  • If the primary focus of skin tight apparel is jiggling fat, the wearer is not fashionable.  The wearer may be disgusting and comical, but not fashionable. Trust me on this.
  • If I like the color, fit, and print, it is in fashion.
  • Keen sandals and lace ups, and Vasque boots are the most  trendy footwear on earth.
  • Anyone paying thousands, or even hundreds of dollars for clothes, is out of her/his cotton-picking mind.  Donate to a good cause or put the money into retirement instead. Anyone worth knowing does not care about the brand name of someone’s clothes and accessories.
  • The latest fashion among the teenage set is FUNNY when the over thirty set wears
  • I don’t care what anyone else is wearing this year, but I encourage everyone, as a public duty, to wear something.

What the Truly Fashionable are Wearing This Year

Friday, April 17, 2015

Study Your Back Trail

My grandfather had words of advice to avoid getting lost:  Study your back trail.  As a Montana cowboy in the 1880’s and 1890’s, maybe Grandpa knew a thing or two about what it was to be lost. 

Grandpa maintained that often people became lost because they failed to turn around occasionally and see what the landscape would look like on the return journey.  When the travelers headed back, nothing would look familiar because they had never stopped to see how things looked traveling the opposite direction. Even though I stick closely to trails, I stop now and then to study my back trail when I hike.  You never know when you might be forced off a trail by someone’s bull, a bear, or other circumstances.  Off trail, you really need to know what the country looks like facing the other direction.

Studying your back trail is a good idea in life too.  Every now and then it makes sense to look back and evaluate what you have come through, how you handled it, and what you would do differently.  The 10th step of Alcoholics Anonymous provides for studying your back trail every day by taking a daily personal inventory and owning mistakes.

While studying your back trail is important, I have come to realize that this, like anything else, can be overdone.  If you spend all your time facing backwards and memorizing the most minute details of the country you have already passed through, you are bound to trip over the rocks and roots ahead of you.  When hiking, you stop only once in a while to study your back trail.  It’s not efficient, and can be dangerous, to focus most of your attention backwards, giving minimal heed to your forward progression.

I have spent too much time studying my back trail.  I plan to change that.  I still want to evaluate  my actions daily and correct behaviors I need to correct. Still, no matter how much I measure my conduct and hope to improve, I am human.  I make mistakes.  No amount of bemoaning the past can change my mistakes or the mistakes others made that affect me. My only hope is to rely on the saving merits of my Savior. If I want His help and forgiveness, I have to let go of both my mistakes and others’ mistakes and move on. This is the healthiest and best way to live a life.

I will continue to study my back trail, but I plan to spend most of my efforts in charting my movement forward. I don’t like to mess up, and I am going to try to avoid this. But part of my development includes dealing with my mistakes.  Beating myself up when I make errors doesn’t stop me from making more errors, it only makes me depressed, anxious, and afraid.  Stop now and then to study your back trail. Concentrate mostly on your front trail.  Both statements are good advice.

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Years at Pompey's Pillar

As any of my family knows, Pompey's Pillar is a large rock close to the Yellowstone River that was large enough in the landscape for travelers to use it as a marker.  Many early explorers and travelers carved their names in the rock.  It was named for Pompey, a black man who made up part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  William Clark is the most famous grafitti artist on the monument.

My Dad was born at Pompey's Pillar, Montana, the town.  This town  now consists of a few trailers, a couple of houses, a few old buildings and a Post Office.  But when Dad's parents, O.D. Robertson and Maude Brodock Robertson  moved there in the early 1900's, it was an up and coming place. A riverboat made runs from Billings to Pompey's Pillar and back. There were businesses and a bank.

John, Les and Winifred Robertson in front of the Pompey's Pillar homestead

Huntley Irrigation Project, completed in 1907, encouraged settlers to homestead this area.  The Crow Indians ceded reservation lands for settlement.  O.D. owed Indians fees on his homestead, which was close to the Pompey's Pillar Monument.  His dairy and stock farm was traversed by fly creek and the railroad.  Every morning a train bound for Billings would stop and O.D. would load milk onto it.  

I don't know if O.D. and Maude set their sights on a homstead in Pompey's Pillar when they were married January 20, 1904.  But by 1906 they were making plans to homestead there. When they arrived, they had two children, John and Leslie.  Robert Theodore (Teddy), Winifred and Sidney were all born at the Pompey's Pillar Homestead.  

1906 Certificate showing O.D. Robertson  was eligible to file for a homestead.

When Maude and Dunc lived in the area, Pompey's Pillar had a Community Club - the card makes me think it was like a Chamber of Commerce
Uncle John's Report Card
Mr and Mrs Davis.  Mrs. Davis taught school in Pompey's Pillar